Contributing to Open Source Code

by | Mar 27, 2020

In February of 2017, I was assigned to look after the New York Observer. My first task was a stale ticket about FBIA warnings. FBIA (Facebook Instant Articles) is a platform that Facebook is promoting to help articles load faster on mobile, within the Facebook ecosystem. It’s competing with AMP, which is Google’s project that does the same thing in the Google ecosystem. Articles can use a subset of HTML, Javascript and ads are restricted, and they load quickly on mobile. Automattic has created a plugin to help publishers use the platform.

With FBIA, You have to register each HTML tag you intend to use, outside of a couple of defaults. The Observer’s editors were noticing a list of tag-related errors being raised by the plugin, and they were worried about it. How could they be sure that articles would publish properly to FB?

I suggested that we add an indicator to the posts index, and did a little investigation to find out how to do that. Ultimately, they decided not to go ahead, as they wanted to focus their effort on AMP. Still, I was a new employee at 10up and still under-resourced at that time. The idea seemed sound and I had time to work on it.

I opened an issue with the FBIA project.

Steps required to reproduce the problem:
– Go to posts index in wp-admin
– Open posts for editing one at a time
– Look for FBIA warnings
– Slowly die of old age

One of the repo owners encouraged me, saying that it was a good idea and they’d “look into it”. One or two others ( spoke up as well, so I spent a couple hours putting together my solution: stoplights, similar to those used by Yoast for SEO scores. (

Adam Silverstein very kindly reviewed my code so there could be no possible style complaints about it, and another contributor ( made suggestions as well.

Then I waited. For the next 4 months, every 2 to 4 weeks I’d bump the thread. Adam and another interested bystander did the same with comments and emojis. We pinged the repo owners by name (charmingly and politely), several times.

The day before our annual team summit, when our whole distributed company of 150 or so techies met in person in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Adam bumped the thread one more time, and it was merged. Just like that. He was able to call me out in his summit talk as a recent OSS contributor, and I felt warm and fuzzy all week.

What I’ve learned here is that even with multiple loud voices in your favour, it can take months to get code merged. Knowing that, I was especially impressed by Adam’s talk at summit about how he got a major feature merged to Google’s AMP project in only two weeks. With my new perspective, I see that as lightning speed.

Second – I love contributing to open source. Getting my code merged is one of my favourite rushes. I want to do it more. So if anyone has an OSS project with some good beginner tickets, please, let me know.

Here’s some more info about FBIA (, AMP (, and a comparison of the two ( Apple News also competes in this space.